Before Christmas shopping became a mad rush to the mall, or we let our fingers do the shopping on Amazon and other online shopping sites, there were downtowns.

People used public transportation or drove their vehicles into the center of the city to shop. Downtowns were the center of most commerce. Downtown New Bedford was special.

The times have changed.

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There were few downtowns quite like downtown New Bedford at Christmastime or otherwise. That is why we celebrate downtown New Bedford with Joe Jesus' 50s Night each summer. The annual event is about keeping the spirit of Thursday night in downtown New Bedford alive, even as we grow older and fewer of us remember.

Christmas Shopping Downtown New Bedford Was Special
Courtesy Spinner Publications

No holiday shopping foray into downtown New Bedford was complete without a stop at S.S. Kresge's for a banana split or a visit to the Peanut Shoppe for a bag of hot roasted peanuts.

I can still hear the sound of the Salvation Army bellringer and remember the sights of wreaths on light posts and the excitement of the hustle and bustle of Christmastime in the city.

It was as magical as anything a child could imagine.

Cherry & Webb, Star Store, Saltmarsh, Wings, Boyle Brothers, W.T. Grants Co., Kay Jewelers, Browne's Pharmacy, Keystone, Enterprise, Lincoln's, Woolworth, Sears, McGee's, Gollis and many more stores lured shoppers with holiday specials and brightly decorated holiday season window dressing.

Christmas Shopping Downtown New Bedford Was Special
Courtesy Spinner Publications

The marquee of the magnificent, majestic movie theaters blending with Christmas lights was a dizzying experience for Santa-deranged children.

It seemed to snow more then, which added to the Currier and Ives look and feel that was Christmas in downtown New Bedford when I was a child.

No mall or website can compete with what was Christmastime in downtown America back in the day. There were few downtowns as exciting as downtown New Bedford.

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Gallery Credit: Jennnifer Billock

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